Should the City Allow Leaf Burning?

The City Council has convened a committee made up of staff and citizen representatives to study the issue of leaf burning. This is a controversial issue in our town. Some folks feel it is their right, especially those who have large lots with trees and others have health concerns and want it banned.

I am a member of the committee and yesterday we had a meeting to discuss how to approach this issue. One of our staff members, Shawn Keenan, did quite a bit of research on the subject. I knew that right now City ordinance allows bonfires with a permit and open burning of “small quantities of leaf and brush burning, provided that such leaf and brush burning is not conducted within a public right of way. ”  There are some other conditions listed and the permitted days are in the spring May 1-May 31 and fall October 15-November 30 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday only.

Open burning, even of grass clippings or leaves, is actually prohibited under state law and has been since 1994 in any municipality with a population of 7,500 or more unless specifically authorized by local ordinance.  It was interesting to see a map of Oakland County that indicated whether communities allowed or didn’t allow burning:  map Leaf Burning Map for Oakland County.  Clearly Auburn Hills is one of the few. 

In our meeting there was discussion of alternatives to leaf burning including mulching and bagging for pick up by the city’s single waste hauler.  One member of the group came in with a copy of a scholarly article from the Journal of Air Pollution Control Association entitled “Leaf Burning as a Significant Source of Urban Air Pollution.”  I never really thought that it was an air pollutant–I just thought it was a sign of a crisp fall afternoon. I am increasingly concerned when I read about particulate matter and hydrocarbons released during leaf burning not to mention the carbon monoxide resulting from incomplete combustion of leaf piles. I do know a little about carbon monoxide and its health effects. (Do you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home?–You should.)

Many people in our community have strong opinions on this subject.  The committee will host a Town Hall meeting on the issue on Monday, March 25, 2013 at the Auburn Hills Community Center at 7 pm.  I hope you’ll come in an express your thoughts about this important issue.